Gentle Persuasion. By Joseph C. Aldrich. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1988. 247 pp. Paper, $7.95.
The Church desperately needs new models for evangelism. Dr. Aldrich, the leading advocate for what has been called “relational evangelism” in the conservative camp, provides a consistently biblical and refreshingly creative alternative to “Tuesday evening visitation.”
Convinced that only 10% of believers are gifted to share Christ using traditional approaches to evangelism, the author’s passion is to launch the other 90% into redemptive lifestyles. Using the sending of the seventy (Luke 10) as his basic text and the analogy of their going “like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3) to make primary observations for application, Aldrich challenges and encourages everyday Christians to use their giftedness to reach the lost.
This book is the perfect sequel to his more theological treatment of the subject, Life-Style Evangelism. This work is a user’s handbook. Much more applicational than his former book, Gentle Persuasion gives the frustrated and defeated believer specific guidance for reaching his friends and relatives for Christ. The style is conversational; the main points are clearly stated and reinforced through humor and real-life stories. It is not designed for the scholar. (Though most theologians would do well to find practical ways to share their faith.) This is a book for those who want to find creative ways to introduce their friends to Christ.
The careful reader will notice some unfortunate terminology. After relating how he pressured a man to pray a prayer to receive Christ, Aldrich concludes that his insensitivity to the man’s pain led to a decision which was not “genuine faith” (p. 131). His point, that pressing for the close may not be in God’s timing, is legitimate. His intimation, that pressure always results in less than saving faith, leaves the reader wondering what “genuine” faith looks like and whether it is the pure motives of the communicator or the belief of the listener which saves. A book on evangelism must be very careful not to confuse method with message. The author himself clearly understands this distinction. Later, Aldrich states that people need to “hear the words” [of the Gospel] to be saved (p. 234), and, “The goal of all our efforts is that people will hear the gospel and respond to Christ” (p. 182).
All in all, this is a great book. Aldrich speaks from a personal experience, which sets him apart from many theologians and Bible school presidents or professors. He knows evangelism because he does evangelism. His approach to faith-sharing revolutionized this reviewer’s perspective of evangelism years ago. Much of my success in personal witnessing can be traced back to Life-Style Evangelism and its liberating teaching. Now, with Gentle Persuasion, there is a more readable and practical companion to challenge the ineffective status quo and launch the saints into a lost and dying world.
Grace Evangelical Society